Ready, Set, Register!: How Recent Brides Were My Best Secret Registry Weapon
After the beautiful bliss that was the first few weeks of our engagement, wedding planning realities soon started taking over. After checking big things off of the list like choosing a venue, a date and your wedding party, it's time to start thinking about what you might want to do for your registry.
Chris and I had both lived independently for several years, so we definitely had a lot of items you might see on a traditional registry, but we knew there were still things we wanted and needed and that this was a great chance to upgrade some of our kitchenware leftover from our college days. But where to register? Should we do a honeyfund? What about these websites that let you pull items in from anywhere? It seemed like there were so many options to choose from and we weren't quite sure where to start!
Then, a light bulb went on! Many of my girlfriends had already walked down the aisle over the past several years and I knew they had to be full of advice and opinions on not only what to put on your registry, but where to register as well.
I sent out an email asking my favorite wives club a few questions:
Where did you register?
Is there somewhere you wish you would have or would not have registered after going through the process?
What are must have items that you use all of the time?
What are items you never use?
When I sent out this email, I thought I would get a nugget or two of insight from each friend. I was wrong. I got TONS of helpful information. No one held back. They told me the pros and cons of registering at a variety of stores, they told me about that set of items that goes unused, the surprise registry winner that they didn't know would be an everyday essential and more. This advice helped me to decide where to register and items to consider adding to my list. Because I found these tidbits so helpful, I thought other brides-to-be out there might also find this informative.
Where to Register
When examining where to register, there is more to it than I would have thought. First and foremost, you have to like the things the retailer offers. After all, the gifts are for you and your partner. But, there are other things you might want to consider including:
Are you registering somewhere that you Grandma in Arizona can go and get you a gift because she hates online shopping? Is this a retailer who does have an online option for those who prefer that?
What is the return policy of the retailer? Will it limit how many items you can bring back without a receipt even if the item was on the registry? If it's an online retailer, will shipping returns back to them be free or a cost to you? How many days do you have to return an item once you receive it? Will it be somewhere you'd want to use merchandise credit at in the future?
What kind of registry incentives does this retailer offer? Are there product lines that you get bonus gifts for if you register for a certain brand of pots and pans or knives? Does the retailer have registry completion incentives like coupons or percentages off to finish buying the items you don't receive? How long do these bonuses or deals last? Does it have special events for registry shopping? Do you get any free gifts as the bride and groom after you register?
How is the interface of the registry? It is easy to add or delete gifts online or through an app? How easy is it to add items to the registry in the physical store? Is it clear which items are available in stores or online only? Is the web version easy for guests to find and navigate? Can you put a direct link to it on your wedding website? Can guests check off that they've purchased a gift even if they didn't buy it at the registry retailer? How often does the registry update/refresh after someone purchases you a gift?
Type of Retailer:
Is it important to you to be able to source items from a variety of retailers? Are you in love with a ton of items from one or two stores? Have you considered having items at a variety of price points? Do you have all the home items you need and just want help toward your honeymoon?
You might be thinking, woah, girlfriend, you are crazy! But all of this came up in my advice from experienced brides! Here were some of my favorite takeaway nuggets related to where to register:
"I so wish I would have registered at Crate & Barrel, Macy's or another 'fancier' place to get more unique/expensive stuff that I normally wouldn't buy. I registered at Bed Bath and Beyond and Target and could have probably just done one of those spots."
"Target really sucks. Their registry stuff rarely works and it's really hard to track who bought what and return anything. Amazon and Crate & Barrel were super convenient. I sort of wish we'd done one of those more alternative registries they have where you can collect items from all over the Internet instead of Target (and then you could add any Target items you really love).”
Note: A quick perusal of the Internet convinced me this friend did not have a fluke experience. I LOVE me some Target, but online brides complained about its return policy and its constant turnover of items which made it hard to have in-stock items on their registries. Remember, this list of stuff has to be relevant over a number of months. In addition, brides received a lot of duplicate items because Target only updates its registry purchases once a week.
"I went back and forth. Should I do Crate & Barrel or William Sonoma? I'm so glad I went with Crate & Barrel. It's more moderately priced and it's practically the same stuff."
Note: As a bonus, this bride let me know that C&B gift cards also work at its sister store CB2. She also noted that looking back she also might have considered using a site where you can pull in items from a variety of stores.
"Something I didn't know beforehand was that many places you wouldn't typically think of as wedding registry stores offer registries. We did an REI registry and I thought it was great."
Note: This bride advised me to think outside of the box and ask for items that we needed and would enjoy as couple. They did that and got some great camping items that they love using! I know another couple that registered at Menards. Tools and other related items come in handy for those home improvement projects and yard work.
What to Put On That List!
The older you get, the more you might think that you don't need much when it comes to a traditional registry. I thought that, too! But, a couple of pieces of advice helped led us down the registry path. First, this is the time to upgrade! Do you still have hand-me-downs from your college apartment? Did you invest in cheap cookware? People want to buy you a gift, so you let them, and it's better if it's things you will want and use.
In addition, what are those things you never buy for yourself? My girlfriends named nice towels and sheets as items that topped their lists. They last a long time and you won't regret asking for them.
Finally, think outside the kitchen! What about camping gear as one friend suggested? Do you host game nights? Ask for some fun new board games. What about a membership to Costco or a beer of the month club? Many of these new websites allow you to register for experiences beyond the honeymoon, too. To add some of these things to our registry, we went with Blueprint. It is a platform that allows for honeymoon experiences, other fun experiences, as well as the ability to grab housewares from around the web. One caveat with these types of websites is that some people still seem to be wary buying off of them. I'd recommend having a traditional option, too.
Common recommend items from the emails:
White or neutral dishes (allows you to dress them up or down and you aren't married to a pattern)
Pyrex (easy to clean and use it all of the time)
Quality Kitchen Utensils (Sorry, Chefmate, you've got to go!)
Quality Pots and Pans (Research whether you want nonstick or stainless steel)
Some fun items you wouldn't buy yourself
Check out my friend Nicky's reflection on her registry on Green Olives Blog for more perspective on this!
To Ask for China, or to Not Ask for China?
This is a hotly contested item! Some of my girlfriends were in Camp China, while others said, no thanks! It comes down to knowing yourself and your family history.
Perhaps you don't want to register for china if you are going to be inheriting two sets. Maybe you want something to pass down to future generations. As one bride said:
"I was told by so many people you don't need wedding china. I didn't listen. Haha! I'm so glad I have it now. I got all 12 place settings I registered for. I get sentimental about that stuff. My parents have my Grandma's china and it's always so special when it's pulled out. I hope one day my granddaughter gets excited when my china's used. Plus we eat off of my parents' wedding China every Christmas, love!”
Another bride looking back said she wasn't sure if she would register for china again.
"I don't know that I would have registered for china, looking back. I'm torn. It's nice to have, but in my family, people prefer NOT to use it because it's expensive and they don't want to wash it in case they chip it! They would much rather use our white Crate and Barrel plates that can go in the dishwasher! So our china, which cost thousands of dollars for 12 settings, has been used twice in five years."
Others just said they didn't register for it and didn't regret it. At the end of the day, it's your call and you should do what makes you happy!
Now that you are swimming in advice, just remember to go with your gut. We decided to register at Crate and Barrel. I love their stuff and their staple items have remained the same for years. C&B always has a fun selection of seasonal products you can add in as well. The store also has a great app for your phone as well as a high-functioning website to manage your registry. C&B also does a really fun private in-store event where you can register and enjoy cooking demos, take home some goodies, and be entered to win prizes. You can sign up online here.
If you decide to go with a website that allows for honeymoon experiences or items pulled in from around the web, check out its functionality, reviews, and what fees they charge when people gift you money. They are becoming a lot more common, so there are a lot of options.
At the end of the day, choose registry items that you will use and enjoy. Giving people some direction will help you end up with things you'll love down the road as you build a life together!